I didn’t know what I was in for when I stumbled onto Everything’s Gonna Be Okay. It began with a Hulu commercial featuring teen girls talking about their buttholes. A fiercely confident girl with a sharp blonde bob speaks about her anus with a breezy ease, asking if the others have looked at theirs. A pale, dark-haired girl immediately begins to panic. She hasn’t. She hasn’t even thought to. But if she hasn’t and hasn’t thought to why does she even know what a butthole looks like!? I chuckled, and opted into the new Freeform series, thinking it’d be like PEN15, an excellent coming-of-age tale that’s proudly warts-and-all weird. It is. But Everything’s Gonna Be Okay is about much more than buttholes and teen angst. It’s about growing up when your world is falling apart.
Everything’s Gonna Be Okay doesn’t begin with 14-year-old Genevieve (Maeve Press) and her anus-curious friends. It begins with Nicholas, a twenty-something gay Aussie played by the show’s creator Josh Thomas. On a date with the very hot and sweetly bemused Alex (Adam Faison), Nicholas chipperly unleashes his complicated backstory. When Nicholas was a child, his dad ditched him and his mum for a woman in America. The two had a daughter together, and when the girl was diagnosed with autism, Nicholas felt his dad got to walk away from his first family while still looking like a “good guy.” His brightness sugarcoats bitterness, even as his words bite. So, Nicholas is currently in the US visiting with his now-widowed father and teen half-sisters, but plans to return to Australia tomorrow. However, Nicholas’s dad has some big news that will change everything.
The day he’s set to leave, Nicholas’s dad drops the bombshell that he has terminal cancer and maybe only weeks to live. This flustered father with a warm smile and a very mapped out plan for his children tries to explain the impossible —that is a life without him. Then the girls come home from school. It’s time to tell them … over banana pudding. By the third act break, dad is dead, Nicholas is the girls’ legal guardian, and the pilot jumps to the funeral day. Autistic Matilda (Kayla Cromer) is tasked with delivering the eulogy (she loves public speaking), an overwhelmed Genevieve has chosen a comically inappropriate black dress for the affair (“red carpet ready”), and Josh has hired a party limo to drive them by “mistake.” Everything’s Gonna Be Okay follows all three of these siblings through a time of trauma and healing, yet never falls into melodrama, always veering toward a defiant joy.
A prime example of this comes at the end of episode one. With the funeral over, the siblings are back in their dad’s house without him. They are swarmed by well-meaning funereal flower arrangements that remind them of their loss at every turn. Distraught, Nicholas asks Matilda for a hug. Calmly, she declines, explaining, “I actually really don’t like hugs. Dad taught me to do them when I was young, and they made him happy. So, I did it for him. But I was hoping that since he’s dead now, I wouldn’t have to do them anymore.” She speaks clearly to her boundaries, and Nicholas respects that, but still craves a catharsis. “Well,” he asks, “What do we do when I want to get the feeling from you that I’d get from a hug?” Matilda suggests they dance, then turns on an upbeat song. The two begin to bop about and are soon joined by a furious Genevieve, whose rage melts as they rain flower petals down on her. Together, the trio tears apart the mourning flowers and dances. It’s a climax silly, sweet, and exuberant. It’s glorious and good for the soul.
Upon its debut last week, Freefrom rolled out the first three episodes, so audiences had the chance to mini-binge the new series ahead of new eps hitting each Thursday. I raced through the first three, then watched them all again because I couldn’t get enough. This is not the kind of show that is laugh-out-loud funny. It’s more a river of mirth in the face of melancholy. I realized I was watching with a smile plastered on my face, sputtering giggles as my heart thudded for its heroes. Thomas creates characters who are self-aware yet self-conscious, smart yet impulsive, flawed yet deeply lovable.
Nicholas is funny, flamboyant, and can’t resist the chance to throw some shade—even to his tender sister’s choice of funeral attire. But he’s unflappably loyal, even when his parenting choices are questionable, like allowing his underage sister to get “white girl wasted” with his boyfriend. As for Matilda, she’s delightfully frank, confessing when she doesn’t know how to parse a “weird” social situation, and fearlessly introducing herself to her crush, who also happens to be the coolest boy in school. When in doubt, she turns to her siblings—or Youtube tutorials—for guidance. The show never mocks her autism, instead placing both within the context of the family’s tapestry of challenges.
Then there’s Genevieve, a frantic little weirdo whose mouth moves faster than her brain and who both wishes to be seen and invisible. She was the hook that pulled me into Everything’s Gonna Be Okay, and hers are the stories that hit me hardest. The entire cast is sensational, bursting with charisma and bringing to life the scripts with such verve that the lines feel spontaneous. Young Maeve Press shoulders the bulk of teen angst on the series, grappling with body issues, frenemies, peer pressure, and Genevieve’s first period all in three episodes! Her big brown eyes pulse with panic and vexation, like an SOS signal that begs to be recognized. Like Eighth Grade’s Elsie Fisher, Press dares us to remember the sheer anxiety of this stage, where everything feels possible and impossible all at once.
Altogether, it’s a wild trip, and one I’m eager to make week after week.
Everything’s Gonna Be Okay airs Thursday nights at 8:30 on Freeform. Episodes then hit Hulu.
Header Image Source: Hulu